When Red was Blue and Blue was Red

by Sydney Williams For most of the past forty years, […]

Image by © Dreamstime

Image by © Dreamstime

by Sydney Williams

For most of the past forty years, red represented Democrats and blue, Republicans. The reasons stem back to the soldiers of the north in our Civil War who were predominantly Republican and to the royal blue of Europe. The color red was associated with passion and socialism, characteristics more common to the Left. In the U.S., blue denoted those who put reason before empathy, an attribute more generally assigned to cold, blue-blooded Republicans, allegedly of the country club set.

While its ubiquity is relatively recent, the use of colors to depict states during Presidential elections dates back to the universal adoption of color televisions, around the mid 1970s. In October 1976, using one of the first color-coded maps, NBC’s John Chancellor depicted a white map, which then changed as states were seen as favoring one party over the other – at that time, blue for Republicans and red for Democrats. Reagan’s 1980 Republican landslide was shown in blue on NBC and CBS, but red on ABC.

Chameleon-like, the Left easily adapts to changing mores. It is why history to them is an exercise in revisionism and why relativism is critical to their moral philosophies. What they forget is the essential truth Juliet expressed when speaking to Romeo: “That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet.” It matters not what name we assign, even for example the depiction of “red” and “blue” states. The current color-coding of electoral maps dates to the contested election of 2000, thanks to NBC’s journalist Tim Russert. As such, it was birthed in political partisanship, and its continued use has only hardened the division between the two Parties – to the amusement of pundits, but to the detriment of the nation. Mr. Russert must have concluded that red better captured the image of hot-tempered Republicans, while blue was more symbolic of even-tempered, cool Democrats. The blue-red divide is used by the media which finds convenience in simplicity. Since forty-eight of the fifty states use a winner-take-all formula for the Electoral College – the exceptions being Maine and Nebraska – the use of colors ignore the natural nuances within cities, counties and states.

The Left, in sanctimonious fashion, claims to be better educated and smarter than the Right – more intellectual; thus they must bear the obligation of looking after their rube-like and inferior cousins. Yet inequality has grown fastest over the past three decades in true-blue states like Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, at least according to a report in last month’s New York Times. That is in contrast to the most unequal states of thirty-five years ago – the red states of Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Alabama and Georgia.

In terms of Party affiliation, those on the Right are more free-wheeling than the disciplined, obeisant Left; so perhaps red better suits their temperament. While conformity in politics is a suppressant on individual ideas, the truculence of Republicans can cause them to appear juvenile and, worse, it can allow them to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, as happened last Friday. The Republican-led House and Senate skipped town with just five legislative days before funding for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) expires. It was the President’s unilateral actions on immigration that caused dissension. Democrats had repeatedly filibustered any attempt to include an immigration fix in funding the DHS. Nevertheless, it matters not that the President exceeded his Constitutional powers, Republicans will be blamed if the Department of Homeland Security begins laying off employees at the end of the month.

At the same time and regardless of color, one notes the sanctimonious sophistry of the Left expressed in terms like “net neutrality,” which they argue would allow for a more open internet, while imposing “public utility-like” rules and regulations. Last week in Silicon Valley, the President expressed concern about cybersecurity. In a moment of delicious irony he referred to the internet, which he had just labeled not open enough, as the “wild west.” The New York Times went so far as to editorialize that “strong rules will actually help innovation flourish.” They didn’t explain how, but being the Times felt no need. Once prospects for “global warming” seemed questionable, the Left, without a hint of shame, adopted the generic term “climate change.” (In the 1970s, global cooling was all the rage.) Who will argue that climate does not change? Yet the Left persists in using the word “deniers” to describe anyone who disagrees with their thesis that man is the principal cause of climate change, with nature taking a back seat. The truth is no one knows which has had the bigger impact – man or nature. Extremists on both sides are deniers, yet only the Left wields that brush. Likewise, the Left assumes that they, above all, care for educating our young, yet they allow the demands of the unions to supercede the needs of students.

All politicians lie, but the now blue (but not “true” blue) Left speaks “red lies,” at least as defined by the Urban Dictionary – “a statement told with complete awareness that the other person knows the statement to be false.” Think of Hillary Clinton coming under sniper fire, or arguing that fault for Ambassador Chris Steven’s killing lay with a video. What about Barack Obama claiming that you could keep your doctor and your health plan, or that ISIS is the junior varsity? William James once wrote: “There is nothing so absurd that it cannot be believed as truth if repeated often enough.” Lenin and Joseph Goebbels used variations of Professor James’ words. So have our nation’s Leftists. Recent examples range from “Bush lied” regarding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, to most recently that John Boehner had invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak before a joint session without informing the White House. Regarding the latter, the New York Times was forced to issue a retraction to their allegation that the White House had not been notified; nevertheless, they continue to encourage the lie.

In the end, it is substance not image that counts. It matters not what color represents which Party, but which one does most to guaranty personal freedoms, best educate our youth, care for those unable to care for themselves and encourages economic growth. Matt Vespa, writing in Townhall.com last summer, predicted that an influx of blue-state natives to traditionally red states would give Democrats an edge in last November’s elections. That didn’t happen. What Mr. Vespa failed to take into account was that people moved for a reason – that governments in states like New York, California and Connecticut were driving people out with regulatory impediments and high taxes. If that trend persists, Democrats may wish to reverse colors once again. My answer to that would be like Mrs. Clinton’s, but in a different context: “What difference…does it make?”


The views expressed on austriancenter.com are not necessarily those of the Austrian Economics Center.

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